Pic.; Azriel D'Souza
Today, I had been to one of the colleges in Mumbai suburbs to conduct a half-day session for BMS students. The management was genuinely keen to provide these students with an edge… by exposing the students to series of soft-skill programmes. A large numbers of these students came from very ordinary homes, many even from vernacular mediums like Hindi, Marathi or Gujarati. So, the brief given to me was simple: help these young boys and girls overcome their anxiety about speaking in English and in Public… and, help them develop their overall self-confidence.
I have been helping young boys and girls to overcome their fear and anxiety about speaking in English or speaking in public and develop their overall self-confidence – yes, I have been doing it for over twenty-five years. And, I have been finding it easy to do it.
These college kids – seventeen to nineteen year old – breathe a sigh of relief the moment I tell them my own story. “At your age, my condition was far, far worse,” I tell them. I add, “My medium was not English and I would constantly worry about my poor English when I was your age… I had a chronic inferiority complex… The thought of opening my mouth in public would paralyze me with fear. In fact, I would imagine situations twenty-twenty five years ahead and get stricken with panic now… It was pathological; it was terrible, killing… I did not know how to handle it and I would isolate myself from all social gatherings.”
Now, the moment I tell the young-ones my own story, it takes half the pressure off their heads. “If this person – who has come to help us today – could do it, we too can,” Yes, invariably, this thought gets reinforced in their minds. But, before the thought gets settled, I caution them: “My dear young friends, yes you ‘can’… but, whether you ‘will’ – it depends on how strong and deep is your commitment, your determination… There is a huge difference between ‘I can’ and ‘I will’…” I remind them.
Other people’s success stories help. But, just because other people succeed, it does not mean you too will… To succeed like others do, you need to do what they did to succeed…
And, that’s, always, the catch…
To commit is not easy…
The long road ahead looks frustrating…
Shortcuts and instant mantras sound tempting…
“There is no shortcut,” I remind young-ones. “If wishes were horses, even beggars would ride them,” yes, through this old proverb, I try to drill into their heads the point, “Look my young friends, your wishes will take you nowhere… your dreams will. So, commit.”
At the end of the session today, a young girl, who sounded very confident and articulate, came to meet me. “Sir, my mother wants to talk to you,” she said pointing to the youngish lady next to her.
“She is your mother?” I asked surprised. For close to four hours during the session, the two were sitting next to each other and I never expected them to be a mother and a daughter… The mother seemed extremely eager to absorb what I was sharing today. Now, she was telling me as to how she had raised her only daughter, helping her in her studies and other activities. The daughter had shaped up as a confident girl… She was the CR (Class Representative)… She articulated well and, now, wanted her mother to grow in some areas. The mother had to discontinue her studies after eleventh standard… She had studied in Gujarati medium… She had fear of communicating in public… and, for last four to five years, the inferiority complex was getting nastier in her and she had been losing her inner glow due to this. “Sir, I want to continue my studies,” the mother said to me in Hindi, “I want to improve my English and regain my self-confidence.”
I looked at the daughter. “I am helping her sir,” the daughter assured me, “She will do it.”
I loved that spirit. The young girl – who was the CR of the class, had persuaded the college authorities to allow her mother to attend the session and learn. It was commendable… It is tough for any young-one to do that…
I swear, it is tough!
I did not have to say a lot to the mother. All that I had to do was to express my genuine gladness about the step they had taken to overcome a problem… That’s all.
“Everybody wants to go to heaven,” I had this famous quote displayed prominently on the Podium, “But nobody wants to die!”
I came home, today, a lot humbled… and, a lot satisfied.